Bohemianism and Counter-Culture

Dandyism

Welcome

Identity
Geography
   Cafe Culture

Lifestyle
   Daily Life
Fashion
Dandyism

Participants
Writers
   Hugo
       Hernani

   Murger

   Baudelaire
   Borel

Women
   Grisettes

Artists
   Courbet
   Millet
   Thackeray

Students/Youth
   Marius

Evolution
Generations
La Boheme
London 1900's
Beat Culture
Hippie Culture
Rent

Works Cited

The Dandy

Like bohemians, Dandies fervently rejected bourgeois values. They had a similar, carefree, indolent lifestyle and like Bohemians, seemed to belong nowhere in society. However, unlike bohemians, Dandies chose to emulate the aristocracy rather than live in poverty. Despite these differences, the Bohemia and Dandyism often merged.

A famous dandy, Baudelaire, commented that the dandies had "no profession other than elegance...no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons....The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption; he must live and sleep before a mirror." (Seigel, 98-99)

Aristocratic imitation: Dandies lacked noble blood, connections, and any innate characteristics of aristocracy. They were like actors living out fantasies that could never come true, adopting outward characteristics that aided in this public and personal deception.

Fashion:Appearance and the latest fashion was everything to a Dandy. They delighted in elegance and accessories such as white gloves, etc. A significant part of their day was spent grooming; Baudelaire claimed that he always spent at least two hours at his toilette. They also believed strongly in cleanliness; most probably bathed regularly.

Mannerism: Dandyism was largely defined by a self-cultivated personality. As Hugo observed, Dandies thought of themselves as " . . . gentlemen in a barroom, who talk about 'my fields, my woods, my peasants,' hiss the actresses at the theatre to prove that they are persons of taste, quarrel with the officers of the garrison, to show that they are gallant, . . ." (Hugo, 163) These haughty attitudes reinforced their outward aristocratic appearance. They developed the "bearing, pretension, and disdain" common to nobility. (Seigel, 99) Houssaye described one dandy-like character he met as being a " born unbeliever who mocked everything" and "completed all his phrases with clever little conceits." (Knepler, 25,26)

Image courtesy of bohemiabooks.com

This image shows two 1830's dandies. Their elegant clothing, arrogant expressions and posture show how they emulated the dress and mannerisms of the aristocracy.

 

Bohemian Idleness: Dandies had the time and the money to devote to living extravagantly. They were wealthier than Bohemians, having enough to live without employment. Many were owners of large inheritances. They never sought to earn or gain more wealth but lived in constant risk of losing their wealth, gambling and squandering carelessly. According to Hugo, a typical dandy would "hunt, smoke, gape, drink, take snuff, play billiards, stare at passengers getting out of the coach, live at the cafe, dine at the inn, . . . grow stupid as they grow old, do no work, do no good, and not much harm." (Hugo, 163) This decadent lifestyle forced many dandies, including Baudelaire, into a life of poverty and to become, in effect, their bohemian counterparts.

 

Merging of Bohemia and Dandyism: These two seemingly different worlds very often mingled. Dandies befriended Bohemians and frequented the same cafes. While many dandies were forced to live a bohemian lifestyle, bohemians sometimes adopted dandy ways. Murger sometimes dressed as a dandy for fun; he once convinced a friend to follow suit and afterward go to their usual, seedy cafe.

Philibert Audebrand observed two companions, a bohemian and a dandy, and said of them: "If they shared the same kind of life, that is the same chance existence, the same love of inactivity, the same appetite for celebrity," they were different in that "one was handsome and given to elegance, the other prided himself on being ugly and affected a careless exterior." (Seigel, 104)

 

Although bohemians and dandies affected different attitudes and adopted slightly different lifestyles, there was still a fine line between a dandy and a bohemian. They were closely related and they both lived their lives in rejection of a bourgeois life.